Christopher is seven years old. Christopher is the new kid in town. Christopher has an imaginary friend.
We can swallow our fear or let our fear swallow us.
Single mother Kate Reese is on the run. Determined to improve life for her and her son, Christopher, she flees an abusive relationship in the middle of the night with her child. Together, they find themselves drawn to the tight-knit community of Mill Grove, Pennsylvania. It's as far off the beaten track as they can get. Just one highway in, one highway out.
At first, it seems like the perfect place to finally settle down. Then Christopher vanishes. For six long days, no one can find him. Until Christopher emerges from the woods at the edge of town, unharmed but not unchanged. He returns with a voice in his head only he can hear, with a mission only he can complete: Build a treehouse in the woods by Christmas, or his mother and everyone in the town will never be the same again.
Twenty years ago, Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower made readers everywhere feel infinite. Now, Chbosky has returned with an epic work of literary horror, years in the making, whose grand scale and rich emotion redefine the genre. Read it with the lights on.
Stephen Chbosky grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the University of Southern California's Filmic Writing Program. His first film, The Four Corners of Nowhere, premiered at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival and went on to win Best Narrative Feature honors at the Chicago Underground Film Festival.
He is the recipient of the Abraham Polonsky Screenwriting Award for his screenplay Everything Divided as well as a participant in the Sundance Institute's filmmakers' lab for his current project, Fingernails and Smooth Skin. Chbosky lives in New York.
I was so afraid of my contact lens numbers were going to be bigger than my irises after I finished this book (Give me a biggest Chardonnay break, my dear friends, this month I read “Institution”, “Gold Finch” and still working on “Priory of Orange Tree” which has also 800 pages. My red eyed image is still giving creeps to neighborhood kids and their mothers which is fine with me, I can eat trick or treat candies I’ve bough to serve them and I could also steal their M&M- only the red ones, they can have the others-)
I read too many bad reviews which gave me a little hesitation at first but come on, we’re talking about “Perks of Being a Wallflower” author! And horror is one of my favorite genre ( Before I got my caffeine intake in the mornings I look like Frakenstein’s bride with my all my hair in the air and raccoon eye make-up style so I get used to love horrific things )) Of course I was all in! I said bring it on this terrifying read. At least if I got bored, I could use it as dumbbell like I did with My KING’s “Stand” book. (Don’t get me wrong I love that book but after finishing it, I was looking like Dwayne Johnson’s big sister with my humongous biceps! My husband used them as pillows to rest his head and take quick naps!)
I can feel for the readers’ disappointment or frustration because of changing of writing, story-telling method of the author and focusing on different genre. I actually confused too many times during my read and turned the cover to make sure that I was having the right writer’s book. Was I reading the right STEPHEN’s book? Was it not KING’s book, right? It is Chbosky book. I actually thought both authors were pulling a prank and at the end of the novel we could find an acknowledgment part confessing my KING pushed Chbosky away from his seat and started to touch the key pad like playing a horrific theme from Phantom of the Opera and wrote this book.
I mostly enjoy the writing even it was soooo looonnnggg and I dropped my dried contact lenses into my wine glasses and coffee mugs (of course drink choices changing daily and nightly!) and when I was multitasking like biting a scone and flipping the pages, I may have consumed some book pages as well and feeding my dogs with scone (they somersaulted and danced all day, like dogs like owners!)
But Christopher’s age is a little concerned me. At least he could be around 10- 12, maybe this age is a little old to have an imaginary friend but his age is too young to endure and fight against all those scary and haunted things he’d met. It hurt me to see him suffer too many times. (I was thinking I couldn’t see anything disturbing like Joker movie but those parts of the book really agitated me as well)
And the good and evil’s never ending fight, all those biblical references, the parts about the way of people’s atonement of their sins were too compelling subjects in this young and innocent child’s world.
I think with omitted parts ( especially the last parts of the book were too long and they kept repeat themselves) and a simpler boy and his imaginary friend’s story not about heavy biblical subjects, but a story about a boy’s loneliness and naivety to imagine wrong kind of best friend would work better for me!
But as a summary, my 3 point 5 stars eventually rounded up to 4 because I love spooky, haunted, nail biter, dark stories and I enjoyed most part of the book. It’s a thrilling, entertaining but also exhausting reading. I hope I don’t scream too much in my sleep this night (Don’t worry, this book didn’t scare me like that but my husband learned to imitate Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker laughter and as soon as I close my eyes at night, he performs very same laughter in the silence of the night like a heartless creature. So this month I decided to read more horror books because real life and vengeful husbands who were dissatisfied with my cooking performance were scarier than the books! Trust me! I learned from the hardest way!)
This morning I FINALLY managed to finish Imaginary Friend. I started this book and was immediately hooked. It was uber creepy, really well written, I was loving it.
Sadly it was all downhill from there. 700+ pages of which maybe half ended up being relevant/adding to the story. Now I love a tome. I recently read Wanderers which was longer than this one but had zero wasted scenes or words and was an epic that read fast. So it's not the length itself that was an issue. I read King and Tolstoy. Trust me I can cope with a long narrative that you need to commit to.
It was the slogging through endless pages of repetitive nonsense, towards a pay off that irritated me, didn't really make sense and subjectively wasn't worth the effort. It was the eventual realisation that this was one long sermon from which I am supposed to learn something (And boy does the author ram that down your throat ad finitum for the last 20%) It was basically (In my opinion) the author plugging his belief system but disguising it as a horror story. Well you know what you can do with THAT shenanigans.
Too long. Way too long. Even allowing for my very personal reaction to what this book was, and allowing that quite rightly for some readers this novel will resonate in a different way , I honestly believe it needs a HUGE edit. There's so much white noise the plot, the "message" whether that message appeals to you or not, gets lost along the way. It's probably in the woods with about a million deer and a few white plastic bags.
You had to be there. But I really can't recommend it.
This started off really strong, but I gotta be honest with you all: I completely stopped giving a shit about this at about the 65% mark. This book was just way too long with not enough pay off. The biggest meh.
Long ago, books stopped terrifying me in the way that people search out from the likes of gory, graphic horror films. Somewhere upon entering adulthood, the paranormal took a backseat to the chills provided by child abuse, sexual assault, and the murder of members of minority groups who never gain an ounce of justice, but this book terrified me in ways that I haven't experienced in over a decade, mainly due to combining paranormal AND realistic horror. I'll go into more detail at the end, complete with spoiler tags, but this book contained the one horror element that still manages to give me nightmares, no matter how many times I read a book that includes it. If you want to go into Imaginary Friend completely blind, I recommend stopping here, and not reading anything else surrounding the story until you've had a chance to pick it up for yourself. If you're the type of reader, like me, who enjoys knowing a bit more about a cryptically vague book to see if you're compatible with it, keep going. Either way, please take my thoughts lightly as the cause behind the commotion in this novel will be very polarizing, and most folks will love it or hate it.
"Don't leave the street. They can't get you if you don't leave the street."
The most common question I've received surrounding this novel is about the page length. "Was it really necessary for the story to be over 700 pages long? Who does this guy think he is, Stephen King?" Honestly? Yes. I had my doubts going in, but I almost immediately found myself entranced by the author's writing, and what would be described as a slow burning introduction to our characters became an unputdownable saga. There's a reason why Chbosky is a bestselling author, and while he did wait almost 2 decades to publish his second novel, it shows his incredible range of storytelling capabilities and otherworldly talent. The average rating is considerably lower than most popular books on Goodreads at the time of this writing, but I do think the page length is something that is possibly affecting this. If you're the type of reader that doesn't enjoy a meaty doorstop, you probably won't appreciate what this book has to offer. The page count will be a dealbreaker for about half of the readers out there, and that's ok, big books aren't for everyone. If you're still with me, let's continue on.
"Oh please don't let it be the hissing lady. Please don't let me be asleep."
While I hate comparing authors' various works amongst each other, I think it's helpful to note why this book is being pitched to fans of Stephen King and his older horror novels. The beginning has a similar feel where, we get many details into a multitude of characters' lives, and after the foundation is set, the creepy instances start. It begins slowly, and almost seems to tip-toe around the horror aspect until well into the book, but it is beautifully done so. As a reader, I became invested in Kate and Christopher as humans, and the bond they created through shared experiences with poverty, abuse, and trauma was so necessary in transforming Imaginary Friend from a B-rated horror romp into a full scale terrifying masterpiece.
Alright, here's the meat of it. I'm going to put this next paragraph in a spoiler tag, and while there are no specific spoilers, I do discuss the theme of the reveal, and I don't want this to affect those readers wishing to go in blind. This part was so well done, for me personally, because I saw the initial reveal coming (the who not the what), and I was still found myself astonished once it finally came.
There is so much more detail I could go into, but I'd rather let you experience Imaginary Friend for yourself. This book would make a fantastic bookclub pick for groups who enjoy darker reads, as there is so much to be taken away from this. Beyond the horror aspect, there are so many themes surrounding sacrifice, hope, and love that will appeal to parents, caregivers, and members of small communities. While I found myself with questions after finishing, that was ok, because I enjoy when a book makes me think long past the turning of the final page. Imaginary Friend will rank amongst the most unique and memorable books I've ever read, and you can be sure I'll never forget it. Also, reader? Make sure you keep the lights on while devouring this book. If you fall asleep, you never know what may creep into your nightmares.
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
how in the world did stephen chbosky go from writing 'we accept the love we think we deserve' to an entire book dedicated to a child haunted by horrifying imaginary people?!
i guess 20 years between books is enough time for an author to change. and in this case, 20 years to plan stephen kings demise. because holy crap. this is the creepiest thing ive ever read, in the most bizarre way possible.
this actually reminded me a lot of ‘stranger things’ - strange things happen, its a little spooky and im not sure i entirely understand everything or if i even like it, but it is ever so slightly addicting.
"We can swallow our fear or let our fear swallow us."
Imaginary Friend feels very much like a classic horror novel which is both a good and a bad thing. To begin with, we have a group of young kids, an unknown evil that fills them with fear and despair, a small town on the brink of chaos, and missing dead children from 50 years ago. And it is terribly creepy. When I first read The Perks of Being a Wallflower I remember feeling underwhelmed. I didn’t get why people loved this story so much. Neither writing nor plot managed to catch my interest, but maybe I wasn’t ready when I first read it. Rewatching the film years later showed me what a beautiful and moving story Chbosky had created.
But with IF I was immediately drawn into the world of Christopher who vanishes into the woods for six whole days just to turn up again unharmed, but with a desperate need to build a treehouse in the middle of the Mission Street Woods. And something else has changed: his dyslexia is gone, he is suddenly the best kid in his maths class, and he seems to know what people feel and think.
It was creepy as hell, I had goosebumps 24/7 and no clue about what was happening. Never did I think that I would devour these 700 pages in three days but that’s exactly what happened. The writing was compelling, the characters felt real, and I really needed to know what the fuck was going on or I would DIE. So far so good, but things changed around the 500-page mark. There was a big twist, which, although I didn’t see it coming, didn’t catch me unaware. Mainly because it felt too simplified and unoriginal. It wouldn’t have bothered me much, though, if the story had been taken to a clean and satisfying ending. But what followed were 200 pages that should have been 100 pages, or maybe 70. You know when there is a final battle with the biggest bully on the lot and you know this is it, it’s live or die? That didn’t only happen once, it happened three times. It wasn’t just repetitive at this point, it was a big mess. And even though I had really enjoyed – loved – the story until that point, it couldn’t hold my attention and fascination any longer. It was made even worse by Chbosky’s use of redundant tropes that put female characters in over-sexualised and violated roles. I honestly expected better of him. Chbosky is a great storyteller who proved repeatedly that he has what it takes to tell heartfelt stories with characters that feel real, that are relatable. So why did he suddenly feel the need to make use of tropes such as the prude catholic girl tempted by sin, why did he have to degrade most of his central female characters by ripping off their clothes, violating their bodies, by turning them into madwomen haunted by unfeeling or violent men? I’m not criticising the fact that he made violence and abuse part of a female character’s story. Sadly, that is far from unrealistic. But he exploited them and used their pain for shock value like countless male authors have done before him. It’s a limited and frankly antiquated way of writing female voices.
Overall, this novel would have been a new favourite if it had paid more attention to plotting and characterisation.
Wow! I’ll tell you now, this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it was 100% up my street.
Mind bending, so incredibly clever with such beautiful and heartfelt language and messages. I’m astonished and reviewing this is gonna be bloody hard.
"He knew how he found the skeleton. He knew that the bones had been there for a long time. He even thought he knew the name of the kid who died. But he couldn't tell the grown-ups that. Because eventually, they would ask him how he knew everything. And he only had one truthful answer. 'Because my imaginary friend told me."
Ok, here goes nothing. We start with Christopher, a young boy living with his mother, they struggle to get by and Christopher has a lot of trouble with letters. One day while waiting for his mother to pick him up after school he wanders into the Mission Street Woods and isn't discovered until 6 days later, completely unharmed yet with a complete memory lapse of his time there. When asked how he got out, all Christopher will say is 'the nice man helped me.'
Many years before, another young lad David Olsom also wandered into the Mission Street Woods but was never found. What happened to him?
Since returning from the woods Christopher has gained himself an imaginary friend. He does wonderful things for him, Christopher becomes a genius overnight, his mother wins the lottery, he gets a group of friends and things are looking up.
Meanwhile we follow a collection of other characters, from Christopher's school friends, his mother's ex boyfriend, a local Christian girl Mary Katherine, the Sherrif and many more. If you like books with a variety of different characters you'll like this one.
Before long Christopher is being led by his imaginary friend. A villain called the Hissing Lady is out to get Christopher, and the Nice Man is determined to protect him. The most important task is to build a tree house, it will work as a doorway between the real world and the imaginary world. But Christopher must not be in the imaginary world at night, because that is where the evil lurks.
Soon Christopher is spending more and more time in the imaginary world. While the people in the real world are suffering from some kind of sickness which is making them all crazy. Violence erupts and the world turns into utter chaos.
I won't say anymore now as it's about there when the twists start coming in. If you don't like religious allegory then maybe pass this one because it is quite prominent. Personally I loved it, and I thought the way in which Chbosky handles the different aspects of the genesis story and retells them in his own way was simply fantastic.
Finally the reveal at the end was just incredible.
This entire story just has so much in it, no wonder it is 700+ pages. But honestly I believed every page was worth it.
I'll be first to admit that I never read horror, nor do I have the interest, but I wanted to give Stephen Chbosky a try just because he was an iconic author of my teenage years. But this..... wasn't it. Even from the objective perspective of someone not into horror, especially paranormal/fantastical horror, this was a longwinded mess.
This book started out strong to trick you to read on, but the ending was catastrophically terrible. The first 25% is basically what the synopsis describes, and then afterward, the story truly begins. Let me reiterate that this book is 700 pages long and the first quarter of the book is just exposition. From 25% to 75%, this book actually had a lot of good parts. It kept me guessing, it had twists and turns, it had a few creepy partys. But then the ending just became overwritten, incomprehensible plot divided between two worlds and between a cast of 10 characters. The writing was average at best throughout the book, but the end of the book just became totally ridiculous with all the characters screaming LIKE THIS!!!! at each other multiple times a page, aNd ThE viLLaiN oF thE boOk tAlkS liKe tHis. I skim read the last 10% just in search of answers, but this book provided none. I have no idea what the conflict of the book was and why any of the villains were wreaking havoc on the world. The main plot twist at the end just made the entire situation more confusing and everything got so muddled in the end that it's making me regret spending TWO WEEKS reading this massive book only for it to be so completely a let down because the plot doesn't actually get resolved in a way that makes sense. Chbosky just kept on dragging the conflict out even though he could have ended everything 500 pages earlier, with SO much unnecessary inner monologue that dragged out the pace even more.
Maybe if you like fantastical thrillers with religious/spiritual undertones you would enjoy this more, but in my opinion, just save your time and read Stephen King or something.
The first bit was creepy and spooky, and I loved it enough to be duped into reading the next 600+ pages hoping something great would happen. And then feeling throughout like maybe I should stop reading? But oh man I’ve already read 250-300-450-500 pages, and I’m in it, and I should just finish it because it could turn itself around and maybe, maybe, maybe....
Nope. Instead I got this:
A few twists and turns and scary parts, but mostly hundreds and hundreds of pages of repetition and SO MUCH BITING by deer and scratching and burning and shooting and crashing and lots of chasing and screaming and more chasing and more deer and people with their eyes sewn closed and the simile of baby teeth used approximately 50 times and then a giant chunk of text wRittEn liKe tHiS beCausE yOu dOn’T aLreAdY haVe A BiG enOuGh heaDacHe fRoM reaDinG tHis sTupId godDaMn bOOk, all wrapped up with a garbage bow of weird Christian crap that ruined everything and a bit more deer biting and screaming for good measure.
“Death is coming! Death is here! We’ll die on Christmas Day!” - Stephen Chbosky, Imaginary Friend
This is a tough one to talk about.
For about 600 of this book’s 700 pages, I was fully committed and absolutely on board. I was enjoying every page of Stephen Chbosky’s Imaginary Friend, marveling at the intricate plotting, the engaging characters, the slam-bang set-pieces, and the utter uniqueness of the premise, even as I mentally ticked off all the influences (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Stranger Things, The Dead Zone, Dante’s Inferno, the Bible…)
And then came the ending.
Imaginary Friend is like a roller coaster in a very literal sense. There are tremendous highs, astounding lows, and an extremely sudden, whiplash-inducing transition between those two poles.
The first eighty-five percent is so good, I nearly missed my train stop on the morning commute. The last fifteen percent is so bad, I felt embarrassed for the author.
Before I say anymore, a brief summary is in order.
Imaginary Friend begins with seven year-old Christopher and his mother Kate escaping from an abusive relationship. They end up in the small town of Mill Grove, Pennsylvania, which feels very close to certain Maine townships, namely Castle Rock and Derry.
At first, Christopher’s troubles are very much of this world. Fitting in at school, despite being targeted by bullies. Getting good grades, despite a learning disability. Soon, though, bigger perils intrude. Christopher goes missing in the Mission Street Woods for six days. When he is found, he cannot remember anything. There are no signs of foul play. The only evidence that he was gone is a gradual change in the fortunes of Christopher and his mother.
It turns out, though, that Christopher has come from the woods with a mission to build a treehouse by Christmas Day. I don’t think it gives away too much to say that this tree house will act as a kind of portal between worlds: the real world on one side, and the imaginary world on the other. The imaginary world is another dimension that is sort of overlaid on the real. Within this strange realm, Christopher finds himself a pawn in a cosmic war between good and evil, represented by the nice man on one side, and the hissing lady on the other.
If that sounds crazy, well I can assure you, it gets a billion times loopier.
The early-going is pure genius. When I picked up this doorstop, I figured I was in for a bit of a shaggy-dog tale, filled with digressions and authorial indulgences. What I discovered, however, is that Chbosky is not here to waste a single page, a single sentence. He writes with a Chekovian purity where even the tiniest details have meaning to the overall plot. Everything gets woven into the larger tapestry, with nothing included as simple background filler.
The characters are also excellent, and are fully revealed through time. At first, many of the people we meet are archetypes. Christopher is the precocious youngster who develops special powers. His mother is the quintessential ass-kicking single mom-cum-lioness. The sheriff moved here from a big city because he has a haunted past. The bully at school is a rich asshole whose parents own half the town. Eventually, though, details are added to fill in the corners of their lives. While not every character gets the full 3-D treatment, almost everyone is graced with Chbosky’s abundant empathy.
But this is not an intense, inward-looking character study. There are some big action pieces, and Chbosky really impressed me with his ability to evoke panoramic scenes of mayhem. At certain points, Imaginary Friend takes on a cinematic quality.
Chbosky also does an incredible job – up to a point – of creating the overarching system that governs the interplay between the real and imaginary worlds. In dozens of meticulous scenes, Chbosky gives you the rules and parameters of the imaginary world, and of Christopher’s role in it. Normally, a setup like this, which is completely unmoored from reality, would not interest me. To my surprise, I was more than willing to go along for the ride, mainly due to Chbosky’s skill and confidence as a storyteller.
There is even a masterfully executed twist, one good enough to have you paging back to earlier in the novel, to see how Chbosky set it up.
So far, so good.
Then we come to the ending.
I won’t spoil it for you, though I truly believe it spoils itself. Suffice to say, the complex concepts that Chbosky carefully built, brick by brick, crumble like dry sand, eventually collapsing in a needlessly drawn-out climax that exchanges the carefully-laid conventions of the imaginary world for cornpone sentiment and drive-by Christianity. The sharpness is first softened, and then overwhelmed, by a maudlin tide of emotionalism, punctuated by some inanely simplistic speechifying.
Imaginary Friend is being billed as “literary horror.” I’m not exactly sure what that is meant to convey, though I expect that the copy editor who coined the phrase assumed – wrongly – that horror and literary merit are mutually exclusive. Anyone who has ever read Stephen King knows the fallacy of that assumption. It is more accurate to say that Imaginary Friend is what happens when the hardcore horror of King gets into a head-on, high-speed, two vehicle collision with the tooth-achy treacle churned out by Mitch Albom on a semiregular basis.
This is a novel I cannot recommend. It is, indeed, a novel I am tempted to say you should avoid. Nonetheless, I have to admit a certain lingering fascination for what Chbosky attempted. It is a failure. Yet he failed ambitiously. And if you are going to go down in flames, it might as well be spectacular.
Started ok, but dragged on way too long. It really should have been half its length. I skimmed to the end and my rating kept shedding stars as I plowed through the nonsense. I am not a fan of Christian fiction and if it had been advertised as such I never would have started the book, and I would have been spared.
Perks of Being a Wallflower was not part of my adolescence and I’m not much of a horror reader although I do enjoy it every once in a great while. So, I’m not quite the right reader for this ambitious novel. Needless to say twenty years after the publication of Perks, Imaginary Friend is quite a departure for Chbosky. As is fairly typical of horror novels, the main conflict is good vs. evil, God vs. the devil and so on and so forth. The kids-in-jeopardy trope is in full swing which echoes King but with less success. I found the kids to be too young at seven years old; perhaps eleven years old would have made it a bit more palatable. This is a long novel and there is a lot that should have been cut due to an overload of repetition. I was about to tear my hair if I read “…like baby teeth” one more time. This is just one example. In its favor, it reads fast and is action-packed. Will it sell in the marketplace? Yes, like green wildfire.
"A nightmare is nothing more than a dream gone sick."
This book.... THIS BOOK. I never read Perks of Being a Wallflower but what I do know is that this author went to a completely different genre with this young adult horror fiction read. Is it worth every 700+ page? You bet your ass it is.
To begin with, the main character's name is Christopher Reese - this made it somewhat sentimental to me because my family became very close with the Reese family when we lived in Italy. Their youngest was their son, Christopher who became a brother to me over the years and somehow that made this is a bit sentimental to me. Both have a strong relationship with their mothers and both are the best and sweetest boys. Listen, if you can find something in your real life that anchors you to the fictional life in the book you're reading, it absolutely makes a difference.
There were also a couple of incidents that truly reminded me of my childhood. Being pulled under a bed (or that feeling that something or someone was under there) was always a nightmare for me as a child (and once I woke up halfway under the bed, so yeah...) and that creepy ice cream truck jingle... UFF. Both are mentioned and just grabbed that inner child within me all the more. Even to this day, when the many ice cream trucks roam my neighbor at the weirdest night time hours, it still makes my blood turn cold.
Now, this book is just extremely engaging. Even with all 700+ pages, the chapters are short and I love the various tiny changes to format riddled within. You'll know what I mean when you pick up your copy, and I encourage you to make sure to put this on your TBR. This book is chock full of lessons. A relationship between a mother and son - Christopher and how he takes care of his mother while she feels guilty for not being the mother she thinks she needs to be. Faith, shown especially within Mary Katherine and where we get our first hints of the religious undertones of this novel. The good versus evil and how nothing is especially what it seems - especially in the Imaginary World - STAY ON THE STREETS! The loyalty of your childhood group of friends. The past coming to haunt you and how you move forward in any type of life. I could go on and on and on.
While I absolutely consider this my favorite of the year so far, there are a couple of things that didn't quite work for me. The children being 7, made it a little bit implausible - if they were just a few years older, it would've made that slight difference. Some things may feel a bit repetitive but personally I didn't mind this at all and I think that honed in on certain pieces of the story. However, the baby teeth as a description definitely stuck in my head - I wish that could've been identified with something different or not described repetitively throughout the read. But these are just nit picks that I can overlook because of the impact this story had on me. Some people may think this could've been shortened but I think every single page worked to tell this multifaceted story.
For me, this has that NOS4A2 creepy vibe, "kids group fighting evil" King vibe with that Burton-esque feel. I would absolutely LOVE to see this adapted. The hissing woman, the mailbox people and the nice man - each told and described in a tone that set you on your journey with Christopher in the Imaginary World and boy oh boy, these will be anchored in my mind for quite some time. And let me tell you what, I hope I don't run into deer anytime soon (or ever).
Basically, put this on your TBR, keep an open mind and set aside a few hours to really let this story seep into your blood stream. I'll see you on the other side.
Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for this early release.
This 700 page book was a wild ride. This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year because I adore Stephen Chbosky and I couldn't be more curious to see what he does with the horror/thriller genre, and this book did not disappoint for the most part.
I recorded my entire experience reading this book in a reading vlog so I'm just gonna leave that here if you're curious to hear my thoughts: https://youtu.be/4Apl4du60fs
The Perks of Being a Wallflower deserves all the acclaim it has received. Between that and my love of the horror genre, I was really excited when Imaginary Friend was announced. My excitement went even higher when I found out that Chbosky's first book in 20 years was being touted as a literary horror novel. All of these things should have combined into a fantastic reading experience. Unfortunately, it's didn't. At all. As some would say, I just can't even with this book.
The first 50 pages or so were actually quite good and interesting. So, if you've seen the reviews from notable authors, Joe Hill didn't lie. But you may have also noticed that Hill specifically spoke just about the first 50 pages. Want to know why? Because the story veers hard after that, and not in a good way. If I was reviewing just the first 50 pages, this would be a 5-star book. The rest of it plummets it hard to 1-star territory, though.
We spend the next 670 pages inside a Christian story that's so on the nose that it's actually overly kind to call any of it an allegory. After all, by the end there's absolutely no hidden meanings inside Imaginary Friend. And that's one of the most disappointing things of all because the term literary horror typically denotes a much more deeply layered experience that requires contemplation. There's nothing to contemplate here other than Chbosky's apparently skewed view of women, along with the question of why he felt the need to spend 650 pages basically preaching and moralizing.
If you're not into Christian horror dressed up as horror, this book probably won't be for you. Even if you are into Christian horror, this book still might not be for you because it contains a lot of profanity and sexual content that seems to be turning off many reviewers who should have been the book's primary target audience. For the record, I have no issues with the profanity and sexual content, although it sure would have been nice if women weren't portrayed as corrupt entities unable to control their sexuality. There's actually a scene where a virgin teen's sex drive causes her to "corrupt" her Christian, virgin boyfriend by giving him oral sex. ::rolls eyes::
The constant biblical references quickly became annoying and repetitious, as did the rest of the story. Everything was tied into the bible after the first 50 pages or so, and I mean everything. In one section, Chobsky writes that "the children scattered like the parting of the Red Sea" (or something to that effect). This is a prime example of everything being a biblical reference, and these things happen again and again and again, ad nauseam.
I'm pretty sure Chbosky has never met any 7-year-old kids based on the way he portrays them. And it's quite frankly disgusting that he insisted on writing the bully's nickname of one character, "Special Ed," almost every single time the character came up throughout the entire book. And it's not like that was just when people were taunting him. Nope. It comes up when people think about him, when the character is talking ("blah, blah, blah," Special Ed said), etc.
SPOILER ALERT . . . . .
Okay, here's the thing -- this book pretends to be something else for a long time, but it's nothing more than the typical good vs. evil, heaven vs. hell story that's been told and retold for centuries. Chobsky does mess with Christian mythology a lot to create his own version of Hell, so at least there's a bit of originality there. But the idea of the Devil trying to escape Hell (every 50 years, apparently... sigh... can we please cancel the trope of 'X bad thing happens every X years?') by finding a dyslexic child and making him smart (as if dyslexia means you're automatically unintelligent) was just ridiculous. Oh, and of course the Devil chooses a kid who has been maligned by society because they basically have to choose whether or not to become Jesus by taking tons of abuse and then dying for everyone else's sins. ::rolls eyes yet again::
The imaginary world is Hell. The hissing lady who is portrayed as the bad guy is actually Eve, and she needs to keep the Devil in Hell. Because, as always, women are punished for their "sins" and are also tasked with keeping men in line. Here's an idea, hissing lady Eve -- instead of scaring kids half to death and tormenting them, how about revealing what's actually happening to get them on your side? Ugh.
I had to force myself to keep reading. Many times, I stopped and thought, "I just can't." And you probably shouldn't either.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an ARC. This review contains my honest, unbiased opinion.
This was an incredibly engaging narrative that pulled me in from the very first page. While I normally struggle with long horror novels, I flew through this seven hundred page tome incredibly fast. The characters were incredibly likeable and writing was spot on. The narrative was certainly reminiscent of some of Stephen King’s epic works with similar themes, yet this novel stood on its own.
I have not read Perks of Being a Wallflower and instead picked this book up because of the genre. Unlike his iconic young adult novel, this one was definitely aimed at adults with plenty of mature subject matter, including sexual content and abuse. Yet, I think this novel has a lot of crossover appeal for younger readers who are ready to venture into adult fiction. This felt like a very accessible piece of horror fiction with an strong narraive and relatable plot. I would love to see this book become an entry point for YA readers who want to venture into the adult horror genre.
One of the things that I loved so much about this novel was that it was so well constructed. The author sprinkled so many clues throughout the story that would become pieces of a larger puzzle. It was so satisfying when tiny details from early on suddenly became relevant hundreds of pages later. The build up in the first four hundred pages was absolute perfection. Told through multiple perspectives, this novel pulled together so many narrative threads into a streamlined story of epic proportions.
Readers should be aware that there are heavy religious themes in this novel. Like many horror epic, this one played on the classic theme of good versus evil. Yet, this one took that to another level with a particularly strong focus on Christianity. Those metaphors were very heavy handed and even could even feel preachy to readers that prefer religion to stay out of their fiction.
Without going into spoilers, I need to talk about the ending. If this book had a different (better) ending, it easily would have gotten a full five star rating from me. In general, the horror genre is known for having weak or bad endings and unfortunately this book suffered from that fate. To be clear, I did not hate the ending, but I have to admit that I was pretty disappointed. I wanted to love the ending so badly because I loved just about everything else about this book, but I couldn’t. The best way to describe the ending is “messy”, which was unfortunate because the rest of the book was SO well constructed. There was climax after climax, which just drew out the ending too much. Furthermore, the religious themes were too “on the nose” for my tastes. Thankfully, I am not the kind of reader where a weak ending ruins the entire reading experience for me. I still enjoyed the rest of the story enough to give the book a solid four star rating.
So despite its imperfections, I still highly enjoyed this story. If you are someone who can forgive a good book for having a weak ending, then I would recommend trying out this novel for yourself. There is so much to love here.
“We can swallow our fear or let our fear swallow us”.
Stephen Chbosky, autor de The Perks of Being a Wallflower, volvió 20 años después, pero esta vez con Imaginary Friend, una historia de terror. Aquí todo empieza con Kate, quien después de mucho tiempo dentro de una relación abusiva, decide escapar con Christopher, su hijo, y dejar todo atrás para buscar una nueva vida en algún pueblo perdido de Estados Unidos. A pesar de la falta de dinero, Kate consigue un lugar donde vivir y un colegio para Christopher. Así que al principio todo va bien, Christopher hace amigos en el colegio, sigue sufriendo un poco por su dislexia y Kate consigue un trabajo. Pero cuando piensan que han escapado por completo del horror, Christopher desaparece durante seis días... y luego lo encuentran fuera del bosque. El chico no recuerda dónde estuvo, qué hizo o si alguien lo secuestró. Lo único que sabe es que "el hombre amable" lo ayudó a salir de ahí. Sin embargo, el Christopher que entró al bosque no es el mismo que salió de él: ahora es tremendamente inteligente, no tiene dislexia, hace que su mamá gane la lotería, puede saber lo que las personas quieren o piensan, tiene un amigo imaginario y, además, siente que su misión en la vida es construir una casa del árbol en la Calle Mission antes de Navidad para escapar de la mujer siseante.
Debo confesar que la primera mitad del libro es absolutamente increíble. La manera en la que Stephen Chbosky narra todos los cambios que vive Christopher, las voces que escucha en su cabeza y las obsesiones que lo mueven... bueno, todo engancha muchísimo. Como lectores somos testigos de una especie de esquizofrenia gradual que va llevando a Christopher cada vez más hondo.
Imaginary Friend es un libro que se siente claustrofóbico y a la vez enorme. La capacidad que tiene Chbosky de llevarnos de un mundo real a uno imaginario sin que nos demos cuenta es alucinante. Además, creo que es una historia que se regodea en plasmar todos los terrores y las cosas a las que todo el mundo les tiene miedo. Siento que una de las mejores características de este libro es su ambientación. Hay momentos en los que se te ponen los pelos de punta o tienes que parar de leer porque estás seguro de que vas a tener pesadillas si no cierras el libro. Ese es el poder que tienen las descripciones de Chbosky que, sin ser extremadamente sangrientas o truculentas, logran calar hondo.
Hay algo que me gustó muchísimo y es la relación entre Christopher y su madre. Creo que nunca había leído un lazo tan poderoso de madre e hijo como el que tienen ellos dos. Es muy especial, pues ambos saben que son lo único que tienen en el mundo y, por eso, se aman de una manera profundísima. A lo largo de la historia vemos no solamente cómo Kate daría su vida y la de muchos más para proteger a su hijo, sino cómo también Christopher hace todo lo que está en su mano para que su madre esté a salvo, para que no se preocupe y para que viva bien.
Ahora, en Imaginary Friend tenemos una gran cantidad de perspectivas que nos ayudan a situarnos en este pueblo pequeñísimo pero azotado por un mal inminente. Era supremamente interesante entrar a las vidas de todos estos personajes y ver, desde dentro, lo rotos que estaban. Unos eran alcohólicos, a otros los estaban engañando, algunos vivían en ambientes abusivos, otra chica vivía en medio del fanatismo religiosa, a otra la violaban... Todos estos son elementos que nos ayudan a entender a este pueblo como una olla que está hirviendo y, poco a poco, estallará en llamas y caos.
Y bueno... después de contarles todo lo positivo, es mi deber decir por qué le estoy poniendo tres estrellas a este libro. Yo estoy más que acostumbrada a leer libros de 700, 800... incluso mil páginas, y los disfruto un montón cuando siento que todas y cada una de sus páginas están justificadas, que no hay relleno. Con Imaginary Friend... ufff, honestamente sentí que le sobraban 200 páginas, como poco. Después de un poco más de la mitad, cuando se ha revelado un gran plot twist y crees que el libro está por terminar, que la batalla final está a la vuelta de la esquina, en realidad le quedan 200 páginas al libro. Y, a partir de ese punto, todo se hace tremendamente repetitivo y lento. Chbosky le da mil vueltas a la resolución, la narra desde una decena de puntos de vista, y no permite que la trama acabe.
En sí mismo el final me pareció medianamente anticlimático a pesar de que la *gran revelación* sí me gustó. ¿Creo que el final me habría parecido más interesante e impactante si se hubiera llegado a él directamente y sin arrastrar la trama innecesariamente durante cientos de páginas? Por supuesto. Hay casos en los que más no significa mejor y creo que, en este puntualmente, a Chbosky le faltó un editor que cortara páginas por el bien del ritmo y el enganche final del lector.
Mill Grove, Pennsylvania seems like the perfect little town for Kate and her 8-year-old son Christopher. A few weeks after arriving, Christopher enters the woods and disappears for six days. Then he is found dirty, wandering the streets with no knowledge of what happened to him, except that "the nice man" saved him. Upon his return, the nice man who only Christopher can hear insists that he builds a treehouse in the woods before Christmas. So he enlists his friends to build the treehouse of all treehouse. Unfortunately, the treehouse is a portal to another place that will bring hell on Earth.
That is the basic rundown. The plot is way more complicated than that. It is hard to explain it all in one review post since there is so much going on. My only complaint is that it is so long. Did we really need over 700 pages, Chbosky? Regardless, this book is flipping awesome. If I am wrong, God let me hit a deer.
In this stunning thriller by Stephen Chbosky, the reader is taken through a dark world where a young boy holds a great deal of power in his small Pennsylvania community. After fleeing Michigan, Christopher Reece and his mother, Kate, end up in the Pittsburgh area, ready for a new start. Things begin in a problematic manner for young Christopher, who is ridiculed for being different and finds himself struggling with some learning disabilities. When Christopher goes exploring in the forest close to his home, he is not heard from again for six days. When he’s found roaming around by a passing vehicle, he cannot remember what happened or where he had been for that time, save that the ‘nice man’ helped guide him home. Christopher is transformed after this ordeal, seeming not to be the same little boy any longer. His intelligence is through the roof and he seems to have made a good social connection at school. When Christopher and his friends dig up the skeleton of a child inadvertently while constructing a treehouse, things take an even darker turn. Christopher is seen whispering to himself, explaining that it is his imaginary friend, while people in the town begin to experience numerous signs of sickness. A number of dark events take place and Christopher is called back to his treehouse by the ‘nice man’, as they try to locate and defeat an apparition called the ‘hissing woman’. By the time things appear to settle down, Christopher develops a horrible fever and is rushed to the hospital, while forces on both sides of the real and his imagined world wage war for his future being. Intensely chilling and full of twists that the reader will likely not expect, Chbosky entertains readers with a dark thriller that will surely linger for long after the final page has been read. Recommended to those who love a thriller that takes them to the darkest reaches of evil, as well as the reader who enjoys something that is complex and captivating in equal measure.
Having never read any Stephen Chbosky before this book, I was not sure what to expect. I was pulled deep into the story in the opening pages, unable to push back. I needed to know everything that happened and how Christopher might be able to extricate himself from the situation that fell into his lap. Christopher Reece appears to be the major protagonist, though I could argue that there are many, depending on which thread of the narrative the reader finds the most captivating. Young Christopher is trying to put his life in order after yet another move with a flighty mother, though seems to find a great deal of comfort in his imaginary friend, particularly after the six day disappearance. Christopher changes significantly at this point, pulling the story along with him into dark and secretive subplots that will keep the reader guessing. Many others hold their own plots within the book, enhancing the work of Christopher, as well as dealing with their own troubles. Chbosky develops a strong set of storylines that utilise his characters to their fullest. The overall story is not as ‘sci-fi’ as it may seem, though there is a great deal of horror and dark thrills that fill the pages, leaving the reader to wonder what they may have signed on to read. With haunting religious symbolism throughout, Chbosky does not let up, spinning haunting aspects and chilling resolutions, while keeping the reader wondering until the final sentence lingers above the page. I have not read such a long book with such interest or determination in a long time. I can only hope to find more in this genre soon.
Kudos, Mr. Chbosky, for an explosive story and stellar characters. I will be looking for more of your work, particularly if it offers the same impact.
After a lot of internal debate, I've finally decided to put this one to rest. I was so tremendously excited to read this that I picked it up as an ARC and read the first 30% or so, but then I set it down months ago and was never able to convince myself to put it back up. After numerous attempts now to resume it, I'm finally accepting the fact that I'm simply not invested enough in this story to bother. Chbosky is a brilliant writer and I stand by that, but the plot of this book simply does not warrant its length, in my opinion, and I don't care enough about the outcome to commit any more time to it. Sad day.
Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
I can't believe I didn't DNF this one. It was over 700 pages, and at least half of that could have been edited out to tighten up the plot and get to the action faster. There was a lot of repetition, and seriously, there were multiple climax points of the story. The "big final battle" happened three or four times. Much of the story never made sense, and if it was allegorical, well, it didn't really do well on that front either.
Overall, I was invested in a handful of the characters, so I stuck it out for them, but I didn't much enjoy the book. It was a rambling, poorly plotted, "trying too hard to write a Stephen King-esque epic horror fantasy and not succeeding," confusing mess of a book.
I hate giving poor reviews of novels, but alas, I promised honesty. I can't really say I recommend this one much at all. --- Review to come upon release, but honestly, this was too long, very weird, rambling and poorly plotted King-wannabe type story. I can't believe I didn't DNF it, honestly.
Imaginary Friend is a first-hand look into the innocence and terrors only seen through a child’s eyes. Reading this book was a surreal experience, Stephen Chbosky is an extraordinary storyteller.
When I started reading this book I immediately thought of The Odyssey. 80’s kids know what’s up! The Odyssey is this show about a kid that goes into a coma following an accident. Essentially, its a look into the child’s mind and his journey to return home through a magical imaginary world. Imaginary Friend is a lot like that only a lot less magical and much, much more horrifying. I remember reading and being completely mystified by the story and then things took a turn about a quarter of the way through. That’s when some scary undertones started showing through. It reminded me of Pet Sematary and Poltergeist in some ways. Honestly, this book was mesmerizing. The storytelling ability of Stephen Chbosky is spectacular. I absolutely loved the characters here as well. It was emotional reading along as they developed with the story. There is one thing about the book that I thought was unnecessary and it’s my opinion that it ruined the creativity and uniqueness of the book, the religious aspect introduced near the end. That aside, the book is nostalgic, emotional, and spooky as hell!
Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky gets a rating of 3/5 from me. I was really divided on how I wanted to rate this book because I thought this was a five star read until the author through a curveball and wrecked the experience for me. Although disappointed, I must be honest. It was really, really good for the most part. The story was very compelling, and the character development was amazing. I do think it was a good read and most people will really enjoy the book. You might just be left a little disappointed in the end, that’s all.
Where do I even begin when it comes to the release of this (20 year) long awaited tome? I guess the easiest thing to do is address the obvious. For those of you who have been anticipating a new Perks to fall in love with, I have some bad news . . . .
There is no Charlie to be had here. Instead, there is a Christopher. A little boy who recently moved to small-town Pennsylvania with his mother when she escaped from an abusive relationship. A little boy who disappeared for six days into the Mission Street Woods and returned – safe . . . but different. A little boy who used to see words as nothing but jumbled letters, but now can ace a quiz in less than a minute. A little boy who has the ability to change his mother’s financial status. A little boy who has to get a treehouse built before it’s too late . . . .
“DEATH IS COMING! DEATH IS HERE! WE’LL DIE ON CHRISTMAS DAY!”
^That sucks. I love Christmas. Today begins the official one-month countdown until I can begin Clark Griswalding up the house.
I’m going to do things a little differently here when it comes to this review. I’m going to talk about some stuff I didn’t like (while still giving this a pretty high rating).
#1. Here is one of my Kindle notes . . . .
“This has to end by midnight and there are still 200 pages left. Yikes.”
You are going to hear a lot of talk about how this book is waaaaaaay too long. Because it is. Like 350 pages too long. And it’s repetitive to the point of total frustration. You know what I’m talking about, right????
#2. Has Stephen Chbosky ever even met a seven year old? You already have to be able to suspend disbelief in order for a group of kids to be building a McMansion of a treehouse complete with a locking door, shutters, glass windows and a trapdoor with a rope ladder, but JFC - seven???? Not only are these kids better at flipping treehouses than Chip and Joanna Gaines, but they are also pros at sneaking out of the house – they aren’t afraid of the dark and scary woods – they curse like sailors and can’t wait for the chance to see some nekkid titties on Showtime . . . .
No. They’re SEVEN.
#3. There are a lot of things that will call to mind to another recent(ish) release. Between the concerned mother . . . .
And the local sheriff haunted by his own demons . . .
And Charlie’s “headaches” . . . . .
And the imaginary side . . . .
But hey, at least those things aren’t similar to a freaking worldwide phenomenon with a ginormous fanbase, right????
So why the high rating?
#1. For not only having the balls to not just barf out book after book after book on the heels of his first success, but to release something completely different than that megahit all these years later.
#2. For the fact that despite all of my gripes, I read this puppy squisher in two days. Obviously it held my interest.
#3. For the ending. The ending is excellent. Unlike some other megafamous authors who shall remain nameless, but have a tendency to shit the bed in horror stories that wrap up with things like giant alien spiders or . . . giant ants . . . .
#4. Ambrose . . . .
Y’all know I have old lady brain, but I won’t be forgetting Ambrose any time soon.
Endless thanks to Grand Central Publishing for offering me an early copy of this title in exchange for my honest review. This will remain in a prime location on the shelf.
700+ pages by the guy who wrote one of my favorite YA books ever??? Here goes nothing everything . . . . .
Well, the ending was worth pushing through to get to, but maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan was the journey long. I wish this book were about 300 pages shorter because it would have been told more concisely.
A lot of early Stephen King feel to the book, especially in the length that could easily be cut. It reminded me of reading the uncut version of The Stand. This was another Good vs. Evil with many players. I did enjoy the mother-son relationship and how guilt was shown in many ways.
The concept was interesting, and I liked the characters, but it was sooooooooo long and told a lot of the same events over and over again from different perspectives that it got a bit tedious.
Overall the length cuts my rating down to 3.5 stars, but it is still worth reading.